Attorney-General, Mrs Virginia Mabiza

Herald Reporter

All 279 victims of Cyclone Idai still listed as missing will now be declared legally dead by the High Court sitting in Mutare in an unopposed class action brought by Attorney-General Virginia Mabiza as part of her constitutional mandate to defend the public interest.

The court declaration will allow families to obtain death certificates, sort out inheritance issues, and ensure there is a clear responsible parent or guardian for any surviving minor children.

It will give the families at least legal closure.

Cyclone Idai hit Zimbabwe in Chimanimani district in March 2019.

Around 340 people were confirmed dead, but not all bodies were recovered in Zimbabwe or in Mozambique where many were washed down, and in the end police still have 279 people listed as missing with no hope of ever finding their remains.

Under ordinary law, any relative of a person missing can approach the courts after five years to have that person declared legally dead.

But Attorney-General Mrs Mabiza is bringing this as a class action so that the families, many of whom are fairly poor, can have the declaration made without paying any legal costs. Mrs Mabiza followed the legal formalities, publishing her formal notice in The Manica Post on December 1 last year and seeking any objections.

At the end of the 10-days set aside for anyone to object, no notice of opposition was filed with the Registrar of the High Court in Mutare, so the application by the Attorney General will be set down on the unopposed roll.

This means that the resident judge just has to ensure that all the legal steps have been taken, a formality when the application comes from the Attorney General, and then grant the order.